I was given the address and after a bit of skew wif street viewing and an unhelpful Translink bus driver, I finally found the block of flats on the Holywood Road.

It was a very nice, well kept block. There were bouquets of fresh flowers and paintings of Belfast and Carrickfergus Castle’s in the communal hallways. 

The downstairs seemed a lovely place to live. Upstairs, not so much. This was Diablo’s House.

Diablo is the Spanish word for Demon. Diablo is what his Cambridge educated rent boy nicknamed him, but was too afraid to say to his face. Cambridge ended up in this way to feed his heroin and cocaine habit. He had dreams of meeting a nice man and escaping the hell he was in.

Diablo’s real name was Reuben. He met his Belfast born girlfriend in Benidorm and came here to live with her and set up a business. A business that included the Russian Mafia.

The girlfriend, Alana – didn’t intentionally become a prostitute. She came from a disturbing background. Her mother abandoned her. In care, she was sexually abused by her male carers. Nobody ever told her they loved her, except for Reuben. 

Over a matter of months, he manipulated her into doing what he wanted. That included selling her body and bowing to his every demand. 

Reuben had plans to make Alana pregnant. Not because he wanted a child with her, but so he could move into the baby trafficking market.

A timid Polish  housekeeper called Helena kept things in order for Diablo. She was tricked into coming to Belfast. She was told there was a good job here for her. Instead she was kidnapped and made a sex slave. 

When she contracted HIV, she could no longer earn money so she was forced to clean rich peoples houses and beg on the streets instead. 

At home, she mixed rat poison with mephedrone and prepared the bags for selling. Helena wasn’t making enough money for Reuben so he forced her to undergo an operation to remove one of her kidneys, for selling on the black market.

The newest slave to the household was Olna. A young girl from the Ukraine, just like Helena – thought she was coming to work as a waitress. 

Instead, she was taken to the flat and all her paperwork stolen. On her first meeting with Reuben, she was held over his business table and violently raped.

Olna was kept in a back room with only a mattress on the floor. She had no bed or bedroom furniture, no luxuries for comfort. She was forced to service a stag party. Each man, treating her like an animal as they took turns to rape and beat her.

It wasn’t long after this that the play ended. I purposely didn’t mention that it was a drama production because it is all based on real life. There was no entertainment factor in this.

What I witnessed has left me numb and confused. Not numb because it went over my head, but numb that human beings could treat each other in this way.

I’m confused about our city. While we all bicker amongst ourselves about the union flag being less important than health and education and jobs – these brothels that are slotted into our neighbourhoods are harbouring slaves under our very noses. And we are too ignorant to notice.

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